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Simulated dementia training elevates compassion for Montana caregivers

Posted at 11:19 AM, Mar 21, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-21 13:21:41-04

BOZEMAN - How can someone be empathetic toward those living with dementia when they’ve never experienced firsthand the physical and mental challenges?

Heart to Heart Home Care in Bozeman is working toward giving individuals and organizations a better understanding of the behaviors and needs of people with dementia with the use of a headset, glasses, and gloves.

“It was very eye-opening to feel what they feel, It makes you more compassionate,“ said Kristi McLaughlin and Sue Sheldon who have been caregivers for years.

They’ve worked with plenty of people living with dementia, but what they realized after participating in Dementia Live, was their lack of understanding of what their patients were going through.

“You get your CNA and boom, you’re out there,” said Sheldon. “If there was a class like this it would’ve been a game changer.”

Dementia Live is a simulated training that takes approximately five minutes to walk through and learn how it feels to have dementia, which is the loss of cognitive functioning — thinking, remembering, and reasoning — to such an extent that it interferes with a person's daily life and activities.

Mclaughlin says the training has completely changed the way she cares for her patients today.

“It made me feel like for 26 years I’ve been doing things wrong,” said McLaughlin. “But I’m gonna do it right for the next 26 thanks to Lindsey.”

Lindsey Klebenow is the owner of Heart to Heart Home Care and she has taken her Dementia Live training to over 50 different caregiving facilities in Montana.

Her goal is to expand that outreach even more.

“If we can walk away after a training and somebody can keep their loved one from wandering off into the cold and dying or they can successfully stop their mom or dad from becoming angry with the kids because they're experiencing sensory overload, that’s when we know we’ve done our job,” said Klebenow.

The training is free and open to anyone interested. The next Dementia Live training will be held on March 24 at Compassus Hospice Care in Billings from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.